Does the French men’s epee team like to scare each other? Twice, on Sunday May 19, during the team event of the Challenge Monal, the French stage of the World Cup, the French shooters came back out of nowhere. When they entered the competition in the morning, they were on the verge of being eliminated by the Netherlands, twenty-second nation in a world hierarchy dominated by France.

But that was without counting on a stunning final stint from veteran Yannick Borel, 35, who entered the fray seven touches behind his Dutch opponent and scored a saving 8-0. A few hours later, in the final against Japan, again… or almost. The French saw the final gradually slip away from them, going so far as to fall behind by ten touches.

When he enters the track for the last relay, Yannick Borel is eight touches behind against his opponent, Koki Kano, world number 3. An old acquaintance: in 2021, in the quarter-finals of the Tokyo Olympics, the promising Japanese dominated Yannick Borel in the last relay of the team event, destroying French hopes and propelling his country to a gold medal that no one was waiting.

In Saint-Maur (Val-de-Marne), where the Monal Challenge is taking place for the first time, Koki Kano seems powerless in front of the French colossus: he inflicts eleven hits against three and brings the two teams back to a tie. Victory is decided by sudden death: the last touch and victory will be for Japan (44-43).

Six podiums this weekend for French fencing

“Yannick is someone who never gives up, it’s one of his great strengths,” commented Gauthier Grumier, the national coach. “I admit that I didn’t expect Yannick to come up with something like that,” admitted his teammate Alexandre Bardenet.

Yannick Borel was – by far – the best Frenchman of the weekend: quarter-finalist in the individual event on Saturday, the Guadeloupean is now certain to participate in his fourth Olympic Games, in July and August, he who was Olympic champion by teams in 2016 alongside Gauthier Grumier and does not hide that his ambition is to win the two titles which will be awarded at the Grand Palais, individually and by teams.

Already twice victorious in the World Cup this season, despite a conflictual context which did not seem to impact the performances of the fencers, the French men’s epee team can now approach the final phase of its Olympic preparation with confidence. This is also generally the case for French fencing, the leading sport providing Olympic medals for France, which this weekend obtained six podiums out of ten events contested in the different weapons.

The saber particularly stood out, with a bronze medal for the French women’s team and two victories in individual tournaments. World number one Sara Balzer won her fourth World Cup success this season in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) on Saturday and will arrive at the Olympic Games as the big favorite. Sébastien Patrice, for his part, won his first World Cup victory in Madrid, at the age of 24.

Pauline Ranvier in foil and Auriane Mallo-Breton in epee, bronze medalists respectively in Shanghai (China) and Fujairah (United Arab Emirates), complete this harvest which comes at just the right moment, the Fencing World Cup having ended this weekend. The final stop on the road to the Games will be the European Championships, which will take place in Basel (Switzerland) from June 18 to 23.